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Yes Quest Means Business

Yes Quest Means Business

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BY SIMON MULI

PHOTOS BY DHRUV SHAH

 

Richard Quest id Undoubtedly on r of the most recognizable face in the field of business broadcasting, CNN’s foremost business anchor and correspondent is as passionate and exuberant in skin as he is on television. It is this infectious personality that has defined his unique style of reporting that gets people’s attention. Whether he is anchoring his signature business show, ‘Quest means Business’ or the exploratory travel series, ‘Quest’s World od Wonder,’ he draws admiration and respect from the business community and market watchers, intrepid travellers and even fellow journalists. The Asian Weekly caught up with him when he recently visited Nairobi and discussed his career, travels and revels and of course, his passionate quest.

 

This is your first time in Kenya and you have, admittedly, fallen in love with the country. What have you learnt so far about this part of Africa?

I was really struck by the warmth and hospitality of the Kenyan people. I know people always say that sort of thing when they visit somewhere, but I honestly mean it. There’s a gentleness and civility in Nairobi that you don’t often see in big cities; it is something special. I also noticed the absence of litter. You can see the impact of the plastic bag ban and aside from a couple of specific areas in the city, there was almost no litter anywhere. The way the locals have embraced Karura Forest is an extension of that – you can see the sense of pride people have in it. They understand the value shared public spaces can have to a city. I was aware that Kenya is highly advanced in the world of mobile banking, but I was still struck by how widespread the use of mobile money transfer services has become. The fact that you can pay a street hawker from your mobile phone is truly remarkable. Kenya is a genuine world leader in this and it’s very impressive.

 

You are widely known for revolutionising business
reporting and presenting it with an infectious passion and flair. What was that defining moment in your career that catapulted you to where you are today?

I’m not sure there’s one moment, but there are a lot of ingredients that, blended together, have helped push things along. As a journalist, you
always want to be part of a big story and I have been on a few over the years. I was lucky enough to be working as the BBC’s reporter on Wall Street when Black Monday happened in 1987, and that certainly played a role in forming the early part of my career. I was in London,
reporting for CNN, when the bombings happened in 2005, which was a hugely important story and very different to what I normally covered. There have been many momentous interviews over the years. The Dalai Lama is one I come back to time and again, but there are many others – presidents, CEOs and so on. These encounters shape you as a professional and as a person. I also think my studies in law helped me. As a journalist, you need to be meticulous and detail-oriented. Law definitely teaches you that focus and I am grateful for that grounding. The focus on facts is the essence of both professions, but I am sure I am a better journalist than I would have been a lawyer; I am certain I have had more fun being the former.

 

You were among 234 passengers on the inaugural direct flight from Nairobi to New York, whose economic benefits to Kenya cannot be overstated. Does economic growth create more demand for air travel, or does air travel help to drive economic growth? Where do you stand on this debate?

On the face of it, this is just one flight and in theory, should not make a huge difference. But that is missing the point. There is a symbolic value to a direct link; it puts Nairobi on those departure and arrival boards at JFK Airport, along with London, Paris, Amsterdam, Singapore and so on. It puts Kenya on the radars of American tourists who may have previously been put off by having to make a connection to get there. It dramatically cuts the journey time. It also strengthens Nairobi’s case as a hub airport for the whole continent and beyond. This should ultimately have a tangible impact on the economy. Of course, economic growth will help drive travel too, but this link is an
important part of that.

 

You are an aviation nerd, having hosted ‘CNN Business Traveller,’ ‘Quest’s World of Wonder’ and your signature ‘Quest Means Business’ in different destination around the world. What has been your most reliable piece of travel advice?

The most valuable travel advice is to go with a good heart and a willing mind. The amount of stress that exists in travel today is overwhelming – from check-in to long lines at security, to mediocre service on the plane and the potential to lose your temper, feel frustrated or cheated is enormous. Take a book so you can read if there are delays. You could carry along portable players with movies and a decent pair of noise-cancelling headphones so you can shut out the world if you need a bit of peace. On the plane, walk around the cabin, stretch your legs every now and again – do not feel you must be a prisoner in your seat. With your hotel, if you are not happy with your room, say so – do not suffer being next to a noisy lift, an ice machine or the stairs. You may be one of millions on the road, but you are still paying money for a service and deserve to get what you paid for. Don’t be afraid; in a polite and respectful way, speak up if you are not happy and would like something changed.

 

Journalism today is facing an unprecedented period with fake news and misinformation. Should journalists just mirror societies and
reflect what their opinions are or should they try to lead or reform the harmful negative aspects of those societies?

The term ‘fake news’ is applied to a lot of different things. On one hand, you have so-called news stories that are deliberately misleading or completely false, designed to influence people politically or even simply generate clicks. Then there are times ‘fake news’ is applied to reporting that people in power simply do not like. I think that social and online platforms have a role to play in combating the former; action against that has to be a positive thing. In terms of the latter, we just need to stick to our guns and keep reporting the facts. We cannot and must not be intimidated. In terms of the role of journalists in society, the key is our reporting is accurate and impartial. Ultimately, that is about mirroring society, but it can also be about leading or reforming harmful and negative aspects too. I think these are not mutually exclusive. Take the CNN Freedom Project for instance, I do not think anyone can disagree with the idea that human trafficking is a bad thing and an organisation like CNN can take a real lead in the fight against it. We are here to give voice to the voiceless and hold the powerful to account. That is a key part of the role of journalists.

 

Speaking of which, journalism endeavours to speaking the truth and exposing the dysfunction of systems. But we have often been
accused of not doing a good job in articulating how things are working or even when they do work. Are we guilty as charged?

I often hear people complain that we do not cover the positive stories enough. It’s something I often hear in Africa, but it’s also something I sincerely and completely reject. The CNN has three programs devoted to Africa – Marketplace Africa, African Voices and Inside Africa – all of which are full of positive stories looking at business, culture and the arts across the continent. They also have inspiring stories about African successes. But the problem is that we also have to focus on the things that are not right too. We are simply not doing our jobs if we do not point out failings, injustices and foul play. It does not mean we should not balance things out when appropriate, but it is important to tell things as they truly are, rather than attempt to lever in balance for balance’s sake. That is not journalism and does not do anyone any favours.

 

Finally, now that you have struck Kenya off your bucket list, where else have you never been that you yearn to visit?

Honestly, there is no place that I am truly burning to go and visit. Perhaps St Petersburg, as I have never been there, but there is not one that really stands out. There are places I would however like to go back to; I would love to have a month or two in Sydney, just to relax and enjoy their way of life. I would like to spend a few weeks on the US west coast, between Carmel and San Francisco, along the Big Sur – one of the most beautiful places in the world. I would like to go back to Iceland and properly see all the volcanic landscape there and get to know it a bit more. So, it’s not one place, there are a lot of places I would like to see more of, including Kenya. Ultimately, I think I would most like to just spend a few weeks doing nothing, on the best beach in the world. How do you define the best beach in the world? I’ll leave that up to you.

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